San Francisco Giants' Starters Most in Danger of Losing Their Spot in 2013
The San Francisco Giants opened the 2013 season with a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. A true rubber match between potential Cy Young candidates Matt Cain and Clayton Kershaw, the Giants fell in the later innings as their offense sputtered.
Luckily, there are still 161 games left to play—so let's get some perspective.
To allow a finger to hover over the panic button at this point is obviously foolish. In 2012, the soon-to-be World Series champion Giants started the season 0-4, with their first win coming behind their "anchor" Barry Zito...who pitched a complete-game shutout against the Colorado Rockies...at Coors Field.
The baseball season is long, full of unexpected twists and turns. The Giants are starting the season having maintained their championship roster. However, as the season progresses and bats either catch fire or go ice cold, the starting lineup has the potential to shift.
History suggests we could see a very different starting lineup for the Giants down the road. The Opening Day starters in 2012 included Aubrey Huff in left field (whose name lived on the disabled list before being replaced by Brandon Belt at first base and Gregor Blanco in left field), Melky Cabrera in right field (who initially moved to left field before his season-ending suspension due to PED use) and Ryan Theriot at second base (eventually replaced by Marco Scutaro).
Going through the 2013 roster, it's difficult to imagine many of these players absent from the starting lineup. At the start of this season, the Giants' philosophy clearly expresses the message: "Why mess with a formula that works?"
However, there are areas the Giants are certain to tweak and experiment with as the season progresses.
The most pliable position is left field, which is currently platooned by left-handed batter Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres, a switch-hitter who is set to start against left-handed pitching.
"Whoever's the hottest with the bat will be out there."
While Bochy does favor lefty-righty matchups, as illustrated by his alternating Brandon Belt and Brett Pill at first base last season, he will also give more starts to the player with the better bat at any given time. Torres and Blanco are both in danger of seeing less at-bats if either one hits a cold streak in the batter's box.
On the flip side, both players have the ability to secure the left field position on an everyday basis or lose it entirely. The Giants have other options waiting in the wings: Francisco Peguero, Cole Gillespie and the injured Brett Pill are all possible alternatives.
Offensive production will dictate many a fate. Although the Giants no longer depend solely on their pitching to win games, as they averaged 4.4 runs per game in 2012 (enough for 12th in all of MLB, via ESPN), they are still not an offensive juggernaut.
The addition of infielder Nick Noonan to the roster adds depth off the bench, and he could pose a threat in terms of playing time. A second baseman who batted .296 in two seasons in Triple-A, he provides additional help in the middle of the infield.
Second baseman Marco Scutaro has the trust of the Giants' organization, a point proved by his signing a three-year contract worth $20 million (via ESPN).
Shortstop Brandon Crawford, with his defensive prowess and improvement at the plate, has earned his everyday role.
Ultimately, it's difficult to speculate this early on in the season. Knowing the Giants' pattern of an ever-changing starting lineup, it is not unlikely some of the faces we see on the field in the first inning today will change in the later months.
The Giants also have a history of players humbly accepting their roles and putting ego aside. This unique quality is a big reason for the team's recent success.
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